We’ve all been there. Cold…wet…and miserable. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you’ve probably been there more than most. Hypothermia can sneak up on you and the CDC says that about 1300 people each year die from this condition in the US alone. Today I’m going to show you how to treat it in a remote area without building a full fire, using only a couple of items that are super cheap and easy to use so you’ll never have to suffer again. I learned this trick while working with some Army Green Berets who developed it as a means to stay warm/alive while covertly conducting field reconnaissance in extreme weather conditions.
- Poncho is preferred, but a space blanket will do in a pinch
- 6” x 6” piece of heavy duty tinfoil
- A couple cotton balls with Vaseline and at least one match-light charcoal briquette*
*There are alternatives you can use for your heat source. Trioxane fuel bars or a can of Sterno work just as well, are fairly cheap and can be found on Amazon or your local Army surplus store. Utilizing Trioxane or Sterno cans eliminate the need for any tinfoil since they come in their own packaging.
Turn on the heat
If you’re using a briquette, place it on your tinfoil with your cotton ball/Vaseline mixture, light it up and let it ash over. Match-light briquettes work better than the standard briquettes as they are already infused with lighter fluid so they take the flame quicker. Place your poncho on (hood up/hands and arms inside) and squat over your heat source so that the edges of the poncho contact the ground and block out any wind (if you’re using a space blanket, bring it up like a hood on top of your head and hold it closed in front of your chest). The fatigue of the squatting position is eliminated if you can find a small log or similar structure to sit on. The trick here is to keep you and your poncho a safe distance from the heat source. Another safety note: never fully close off your poncho hood and keep your nose and mouth out so you can draw in fresh air. The heat will rise up warming your core, your neck and head as it drifts out the hood. There is an absurd amount of heat emitted from this technique and you’ll get anywhere from 45-60 minutes out of one briquette. Tap the briquette with a stick or rock occasionally to knock the ash off and keep it burning hot.
Packing and Storing
Your briquette and cotton ball/Vaseline mixture should be wrapped in the tinfoil when you pack it in to the field making it quick to deploy when needed. The foil also acts as a platform to keep ground moisture off your briquette. If you bring additional briquettes, throw them in a Ziploc bag to keep the lighter fluid from evaporating off. In my experience these don’t store for more than 6 months, so build a fresh kit to ensure you’ve got something that will come through for you when you need it most. On the other hand, Trioxane and Stero both have a shelf life of at least 2 years.
Take a look at this video to see the full demo…
There are a multitude of applications for this technique including backpacking, hunting, raft trips or hiking. It only takes a small amount of planning and space to add a remarkable device that warms you up, improves morale and makes you hard to kill!